Sports

Luke O’Shea backstops T-Birds to No. 1

Richmond’s Luke O’Shea, playing for the UBC Thunderbirds, reaches for the ball against Laval during the Canadian university men’s soccer championship played last weekend in Laval. UBC defeated Cape Breton 1-0 in the final game.  - Yan Doublet photo
Richmond’s Luke O’Shea, playing for the UBC Thunderbirds, reaches for the ball against Laval during the Canadian university men’s soccer championship played last weekend in Laval. UBC defeated Cape Breton 1-0 in the final game.
— image credit: Yan Doublet photo

Luke O’Shea’s ability to focus may be one of his greatest, yet most underrated skills.

Tending goal for the University of B.C. Thunderbirds men’s soccer team, which doesn’t give up a lot of shots, it would be easy for his mind to wander. And that could spell disaster in a sport where goals are typically at a premium.

But O’Shea, a graduate of the Richmond youth program, relishes the challenge. And combined with his natural athleticism and leadership, he played a key role in the Thunderbirds winning the national championship Sunday at Telus-Universite Laval Stadium where they blanked the Cape Breton Capers 1-0 in the gold-medal final.

“It was awesome, a dream come true,” said O’Shea, who is enrolled in the Sauder School of Business. “We knew we had a really good team (16-0-3) and if we played our game we had a really good shot.”

The Thunderbirds play an aggressive style that often includes their defenders moving up to try to force the opposition to turn the ball over. It’s a tactic that has obviously worked in their favour, but could lead to odd-man rushes against. But fortunately, he says, the defenders are good at preventing the counter attack.

“Still I’ve got to be focused the whole game because I get such few shots,” O’Shea said. “In the final I faced one shot at the end of the game. It’s hard when you get no action and then have to be able to come out for two crosses at the end. You have be mentally prepared for whatever shots come your way.”

O’Shea didn’t become a full-time goalkeeper until he started playing once in a while for Clive Clarke’s Richmond Madrid team. Now, he loves the position and being in a position to be a difference maker.

“I had a lot of coaches in Richmond youth including Clive, Mike Quinn, Doug Long and Jason Jordan who believed in me and thought I could go far as a keeper,” he said. “I like the fact that as a keeper it comes down to you to make the saves. I always say if you don’t let anything in, you can’t lose.”

Outside of winning the North American championship playing for Jordan with Coastal FC in his senior year of high school—when he was also selected tournament MVP—O’Shea said winning the national university title is the highlight of his soccer career.

“Being ranked No. 1 in the nation is a huge accomplishment,” said O’Shea, who posted shutouts in each of the Thunderbirds’ three games and was selected the top goalkeeper of the tournament.

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